Book: “Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient and Then Turned 16”
Author: Moshe Kasher
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
On stage, it seems like Oakland, Calif. native Moshe Kasher never runs out of things to say. He races to the end of every joke, seeming almost frantic in his persona.
However, before Kasher’s rise to comedic fame, he spent the better part of his childhood and adolescence in and out of correctional facilities, rehab and even did some time in a psych ward at the not-so-ripe age of 13. And now, almost two decades later, Kasher, 32, still has plenty to say, compiling all that experience into a 300-page memoir entitled “Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient and Then Turned 16.”
The memoir features all the familiar themes that dominate so many stories involving renegade youth: drugs, petty crime and growing up in broken homes.
But Kasher’s journey isn’t your cookie-cutter coming-of-age tale of a drug-addict criminal turned clean.
Brought up in Oakland, Kasher was born the son of two deaf Orthodox Jewish parents, but was raised primarily by his mother and grandmother after a surprise two-week “vacation” to California turned out to be a getaway. The family relocated to Oakland, consequentially leaving what his mother called their “abusive father” behind in Brooklyn.
Kasher doesn’t bother sugarcoating any of the details, but tempers the material by maintaining a fairly conversational tone, coloring many of the pages with sarcasm and exclamation points. He recounts all the most painful episodes of his upbringing one juvenile disaster at a time with a considerable amount of both honesty and humility, never allowing his prose to become too embittered or caustic.
While Kasher devotes plenty of time describing his former adversaries — school bullies, cops and therapists (at the insistence of his mother, he saw his first one when he was 4) — the book’s turning point comes when he confronts the real enemy: himself.
Kasher’s journey from a drug-peddling vagabond to an internationally successful comic is no easy read. As intriguing as the book is, it’s told with such detail and conviction, that it ends up being every bit as painful as it is enthralling.
“I’d been in therapy for years at that point and I was only seven; I just knew something was fundamentally wrong with me. I became obsessed with the fear that someone would figure all of this out and expose me for the broken piece of human machinery that I was,” Kasher writes of himself. “I was terrified of everything. My feral snarling slowly started to give way to a pool of fear. I transitioned smoothly between angry out-of-control kid into frightened out-of-control kid. I was seven years old and I was sure I was shit.”
Kasher is not only one of comedy’s brightest up-and-comers but he’s also one of the most fiery. And given the nature of his upbringing, the origins of his rough exterior are no longer much of a mystery. What’s truly shocking is how he managed to make it out alive.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars
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